It’s National Canadian Film Day! I’m sadly spending it watching American movies in New York City, but not to worry, I celebrated a bit early before I left, and I’ve got just the thing for this fantastic day in cinema (which for some reason is commemorated on 4\20…stupid Canada.)
Canadian cinema will never compete with Hollywood, in part because we don’t have the people or the resources, but also largely because L.A. is already 80% Canadian. Even Matt’s brother lives there! (Hi, Mark). Well, okay, that figure’s a bit high, but all the talented ones are Canadian. Deadpool is Canadian. Seth Rogan. Ryan Gosling. Rachel McAdams. Shatner. Michael Cera. Ellen Page. Jay Baruchel. Catherine O’Hara. Eugene Levy. The Sutherlands. Will Arnett. Victor Garber. Michael J. Fox. All the funny people from SNL. There are talented Canadians in the director’s chair as well: Cronenberg. Cameron. Atom Egoyan. Norman Jewison. The Reitmans. Sarah Polley. Patricia Rozema.
To celebrate more specifically, here are some little gems of Canadian cinema that I think you’ll enjoy no matter what nationality you are.
Xavier Dolan’s Mommy: Before Dolan was directing Adele, Jessica Chastain, Kathy Bates, and Susan Sarandon, he was just a young Quebec boy with a lot of ambition. His movies have been increasingly polished and mature, culminating with Mommy, a disturbing movie about a complex mother-son relationship.
Denys Arcand’s Jésus de Montréal: Although best known for his Oscar-nominated Les invasion barbares (The Barbarian Invasions), an older work in his catalogue, Jesus of Montreal, is quite a trip. A group of actors are hired to put on the passion of the Christ in Montreal. Jesus is interpreted a little differently than usual and the church is not happy. The movie works on its literal level and also as a biblical allegory, so you can watch and rewatch this one and always come away with something new.
Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies: He’s now known for Prisoners and Sicario (and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel) but shortly after Polytechnique, he directed one of Canada’s best films of this millennium. The story follows twins as they follow they unwind the mystery of their immigrant mother’s life after her sudden death. The film is haunting, sharp, and will make you put your head down and weep.
Jean-Marc Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y.: You may know Vallée from Dallas Buyer’s Club or Demolition, but Canadians got to know the filmmaker long ago, with solid movies like C.R.A.Z.Y, the story of a young gay man growing up in his conservative father’s household along with 4 brothers in Quebec during the 1960s and 70s. The soundtrack’s spot on, the writing is honest, and the acting is top-notch.
Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg: Described by Maddin as a “docu-fantasia” and by perplexed critics as a surrealist mockumentary, nobody knows exactly what the hell this is, but it IS both an experiment and an experience in cinema. Maddin casts someone else as Maddin and then paints a mythologized, metafictional tribute to his beloved town of Winnipeg. If you love movies, you have to check this out. You’ll feel it in your toes.
Being fairly well-versed in national cinema, Matt, Sean and I also watched a movie by a local filmmaker by the name of Vincent Valentino. We met him briefly at the Monster Pool Horror Anthology and have wanted to see more of his work since. He just happened to have a little ditty about washed up porn stars that starred lots of familiar-to-Ottawa faces, plus the always-arousing presence of Ron Jeremy. And how better to celebrate Canadian Film Day by having a laugh with your friends.